Category: Health

ICYMI: 10,000 MORE Children are KidsCare Eligible!

ICYMI: KidsCare, Arizona's Children's Health Insurance Program, is expanding eligibility. By increasing family income limits that qualify for KidsCare, more children can access affordable health care. The expansion was originally approved by the Governor and state legislature with bipartisan support in last year’s state budget. Governor Hobbs announced last week that the federal government approved the expansion to make 10,000 more children eligible for KidsCare starting  March 1. Children’s Action Alliance CEO, January Contreras, joined the Governor and AHCCCS Director Carmen Heredia to share remarks celebrating the important news.

We know children with health insurance are better able to get the care they need to grow up healthy, do well in school, and thrive in life. Thousands of families throughout the state will benefit.

Arizona still ranks in the bottom four states for uninsured children. Yet, we’re moving in the right direction. The rate of Arizona children without health insurance has fallen by half since 2008, from 16% to 8%. This KidsCare expansion will keep moving us forward.

Now, a family with four children and a monthly income of up to $5,850 is eligible for KidsCare. If you think you are eligible or work with families who may be eligible, take action to help children gain the health coverage they need.

To learn more and schedule an enrollment appointment, please visit www.coveraz.org/connector.

Fewer Arizona Kids Uninsured Thanks to Fewer Bureaucratic Hoops

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) shows that pandemic-era Medicaid protections led to a significant improvement in the child uninsured rate nationally and in Arizona from 2019-2022. Throughout the national public health emergency, children covered by Medicaid were protected by a 2020 bipartisan change in federal law that gave states extra funding in exchange for keeping people enrolled in Medicaid, known as AHCCCS in Arizona.  This means fewer Arizona children lack health insurance: 8.4 percent in 2022, down from 9.2 percent in 2019. Especially noteworthy is the rate of Arizona Native American children who are uninsured fell from 24.3 percent to 13.6 percent in that same period. However, this policy that made it easier to stay enrolled in AHCCCS expired in April, and since that time nearly 100,000 children have lost their AHCCCS coverage, threatening this progress. The good news is that AHCCCS has taken up federal options to reduce paperwork burdens for certain populations. 

See the updated Arizona report card of children’s health.

Need help finding insurance? Click here.

CAA applauds Governor Hobbs' action to increase access to high-quality child care in Arizona.

Children’s Action Alliance applauds Governor Hobbs' move to take key actions to increase access to high-quality child care in Arizona.  

Child care is an essential service. Hard-working families need a safe, reliable, and affordable place for their children to go while they are working. But times are hard for many Arizonans. The costs for housing and other necessities continue to rise. One 2022 survey showed that the average family in Arizona is spending 20% of its income on child care costs alone.  

Compounding the affordability problem is a shortage of available care. Half of Arizona is a “child care desert,” which occurs when there is little to no access to quality child care in a community. Unsurprisingly, these child care deserts are more often located in rural areas or areas with higher concentrations of families living below the poverty line. “These child care deserts exist for many reasons and today’s announcement is aimed at addressing two of them” said Kelley Murphy, Interim President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance.  

The first action aims to increase the supply of high-quality child care options for school-age children by reducing the barriers and streamlining the rules that child care providers must meet when seeking licensure. The state licensure rules have not been updated in over a decade,  and there are requirements that do not impact health and safety that can be removed, making it easier for those who want to provide care for school-age children. 

The second action places financial resources directly into the hands of parents and caregivers who are involved in the child welfare system. We know that most reports to DCS (Department of Child Safety) involve neglect and one of the key ways to prevent neglect is to provide families with the resources they need to care for their children.

This move signals The Governor’s commitment to addressing longstanding problems with the child care system and increasing the availability of high-quality early learning environments for all of Arizona’s children. 

CLICK HERE for The Governor’s announcement.

Child Uninsured Rate Could Rise Sharply if Arizona Doesn’t Act to Protect Children’s Coverage

KidsCare successfully brought down the child uninsured rate and proved to be a critical lifeline for more than 50% of Arizona’s children during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families at the McCourt School of Public Policy. The report examines state-by-state growth in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment during the pandemic and explains that millions of children who are still eligible for Medicaid or CHIP are at risk of losing coverage when pandemic protections go away on April 1. By law, Arizonans with AHCCCS-KidsCare health insurance have kept their coverage since March 2020.
Nationally, the report finds that 54 percent of all children are covered through Medicaid or CHIP. Thirty states, including Arizona, and the District of Columbia have at least half of their children insured through Medicaid or CHIP. The report also shows that in Arizona, AHCCCS-KidsCare enrollment grew by 31.6% from February 2020 to August 2022, with children making up 22.2% of this growth. Nationwide, an estimated 72 percent of children losing Medicaid will remain eligible, and Latino and Black children are at greater risk of inappropriately losing coverage.
Read report here

SAVE THE DATE:  March 8 - Support oral health for the whole family at the Capitol

Research has shown that oral health is a core part of overall health, shaping well-being at every age. Dental disease can harm heart, and lungs, complicate diabetes, and even impact cognitive abilities as everyone gets older. Good oral health is also important in ensuring healthy pregnancies and thriving children.  Untreated dental disease may lead to complications such as preeclampsia—a potentially fatal blood pressure condition, preterm delivery, and lower birth weight babies. Additionally, children are much more likely to have cavities if their birth parent has untreated cavities or tooth loss, and they are much more likely to miss school due to pain in the mouth.

In Arizona, over two million adults, over the age of 21 who participate in AHCCCS, do not have a dental benefit for preventative services. Oral health benefits in Arizona are reserved for emergencies and capped at $1,000, with very few exceptions. This leaves many Arizonans with costly visits to emergency departments as their only treatment option, and often it leads to the removal of teeth for preventable dental conditions. Recent research shows that offering a comprehensive dental benefit could reduce emergency department utilization in Arizona, and save the state millions of dollars each year, while improving the overall health of individuals and families.

Dental disease is a problem we can solve. Join Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Oral Health Coalition on March 8th for our Oral Health Day at the Capitol to tell lawmakers to make oral health a priority during this legislative session.

Register today!

Visit the AZOHC website to learn more and take action!

15,000 Arizona kids gained health coverage during the pandemic – but we’ve still got work to do.

Health insurance is a long-term investment for children. It helps families get the care they need, when they need it, without fear of expensive health bills. And it helps kids learn, grow, and play at their best.  

Racial and ethnic disparities in coverage rates persist, but a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families show some bright spots. In 2019 nearly 1 in 4 American Indian / Alaska Native children were uninsured. In 2021, that figure dropped to fewer than 1 in 5. But the uninsured rate for American Indian / Alaska Native kids in our state is still significantly higher than that of all Arizona children (8.5%). 

While the rate of uninsured children in Arizona is improving, we still have a higher rate of uninsured children than the national average (5.4%). Data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that though pandemic-era policies provided 15,000 more children with health coverage than in 2019, Arizona still ranks 48th in the nation for the rate of children’s health coverage.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a few of our suggestions for Arizona lawmakers heading into the 2023 legislative session:  

  1. Maximize Medicaid and CHIP (AHCCCS and KidsCare). As costs go up for all things, more families across the income spectrum are making difficult choices about how to trim their budgets. Arizona’s CHIP program (KidsCare) has some of the most stringent income requirements in the nation. Arizona lawmakers should expand income-based eligibility for KidsCare to better reflect our financial realities.  
  2. Streamline enrollment process. Parents shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to keep their kids covered. Removing the KidsCare wait period and reducing the paperwork burden will help more families get and stay insured.  
  3. Cover non-citizen children and pregnant people. In Arizona, lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must wait five years before qualifying for AHCCCS or KidsCare coverage. That leaves few options for families who are trying to make a new start in our state. Waiving this requirement for children and people who are pregnant is a simple, affordable, and kind way to treat new arrivals.  

Real full report here.

Read media article here.

Big Win! Final Public Charge Rule Announced

Last week, the Biden Administration announced changes to immigration rules that disproportionately harm low-income people of color.  

The changes repeal and replace extreme and discriminatory changes to the Public Charge determination process, which we and so many other Arizona advocates and allies have fought for years.  

This is a victory for Children’s Action Alliance, the Arizona Center for Economic progress, and our countless partners who are fighting for a country where all families have the tools and resources to thrive. The new Public Charge rule aligns with longstanding principles in immigration law and makes clear that the use of publicly supported health, nutrition, or housing programs will not be considered by federal officials as part of the green card application process.  

This rule cannot and will not erase years of harm, fear, and mistrust that have stopped thousands of Arizona families from getting supports they deserve, but we hope that it’s a vital step toward healing and a new pathway for foreign-born immigrants– one that acknowledges the dignity and worth of every Arizonan. 

 

Your voice is needed to get 2022 health wins over the finish line

CAA and our partners worked hard this year to get the legislature to approve changes to our Medicaid and CHIP programs (AHCCCS and KidsCare). Thanks to your advocacy, the legislature passed bills making it easier for people to access high quality, affordable health coverage.   

Now AHCCCS needs our help to get these changes over the finish line!  

Postpartum coverage: The state legislature passed a bill extending postpartum Medicaid coverage period from just 60 days to 12 months after pregnancy. AHCCCS is accepting public comments on this measure until August 29th. This is a final step before the extension can be implemented, and we want them to know we are supportive! Postpartum coverage omments can be submitted by email to publicinput@azahcccs.gov. 

EPSDT: AHCCCS is also proposing several important changes to its Early and Periodic Diagnostic, Screening and Testing (EPSDT) policies. We believe these changes will support child and family health and promote equity. The public can view and submit your thoughts on the proposed changes via this portal. Comments on these changes are due by September 1st 

It’s important that we go on record to tell our Medicaid agency why these changes are needed and how they will benefit our communities.  

If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to download and modify our template comments (linked here).  

2022 KidsCount Data Show AZ Children are in Crisis

Children in the United States are experiencing anxiety and depression at alarming rates, per the newly released 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  

In the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, 9% of U.S. high school students attempted suicide. This is alarming on its face – but the Kids Count data also show significant disparities in adolescent suicidality by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. For example, 12% of Black students, 13% of students of two or more races, 23% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students, and 26% of American Indian / Native Alaskan students attempted suicide.

The KidsCount Data Book looks at multiple indicators and data sources to rank how children and families are faring in each state. The report ranked Arizona 44th in the nation when it comes to economic well-being, health, and family and community support.  

The report also proposes solutions to the systemic barriers to accessing mental health care and other supportive services, particularly for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students.  

As the pandemic took hold, diagnoses of depression and anxiety increased markedly in 3-7 year olds across the country – but decreased in Arizona from 11.7% to 10.8% between 2016 and 2020. While fewer children in our state are being diagnosed with these conditions, additional research is needed to determine whether this is a true improvement in mental health status or simply a symptom of insufficient access to health care.  

The report shows other alarming trends in Arizona: higher child and teen death rates, more children living in families where no parent has full-time work, more children without health insurance, and fewer high school students graduating on time are higher than the national average. Though the poverty rate has fallen to an average of 20% throughout our state, it remains higher than the national average of 17%.  

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children’s Action Alliance, and the AZ Center for Economic Progress recommend the following solutions to keep children mentally and physically healthy:  

  • Prioritize meeting kids’ basic needs. Youth who grow up in poverty are two to three times more likely to develop mental health conditions than their peers. Children need a solid foundation of nutritious food, stable housing, and safe neighborhoods — and their families need financial stability — to foster positive mental health and wellness. 
  • Ensure every child has access to the mental health care they need, when and where they need it. Schools should increase the presence of social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals on staff and strive to meet the 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Currently, Arizona ranks last in the nation with a 716-to-1 ratio.  
  • Bolster mental health care that considers young people’s experiences and identities. Care should be trauma-informed — designed to promote a child’s healing and emotional security — and culturally relevant to the child’s life. It should be informed by the latest evidence and research and should be geared toward early intervention, which can be especially important in the absence of a formal diagnosis of mental illness. 

2022 National Kids Count Report